In its previous two recordings, the Melbourne Guitar Quartet chose rather unusual material, including an arrangement of Nigel Westlake’s hypnotic percussion work, Omphalo Centric Lecture, and a reimagining of William Walton’s Five Bagatelles, originally for solo guitar. Here, the repertoire is far less adventurous. Reworkings of Albéniz’s Cordoba and Granados’s various Danzas Españolas have been played on guitar since the early 20th century, so the material here isn’t as fresh and unexpected. The arrangement of Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque has a curiously earthbound feel to it – this won’t replace any of the great pianists for favoured recordings of the work, though the famous Clair de Lune is appropriately dreamy.
Furthermore, I feel that the extracts from both Debussy and Ravel’s string quartets (in both cases the second movement) are flat-out unsuitable for guitar quartet format. For example, the trill in the Ravel that introduces the soaring theme that should sound effortless, sounds laboured. Were these pieces chosen simply because they feature pizzicatos in the original string quartet versions? In both cases, tempos are on the slow side, exacerbating the issue.
The Granados and Albéniz, on the other hand, are played well, benefitting from the extended range provided by the quartet’s classical bass guitar. The Granados Villanesca and Zarabanda are given a lively and effective performance. A good recording, but perhaps one for guitar enthusiasts only.